Almost regardless of the content in the scene, so much of what makes a great landscape photograph is simply being where you need to be at the right time. Would you rather be a skillful planner or would you accept pure dumb luck if it means you get a great shot?
Let's be totally clear, there is a lot more than just timing that goes into creating a beautiful landscape image. Your technical know-how, equipment selection, and your broad vision for the scene (how you choose to compose your scene) all play an integral role in crafting your final shot. At the same time, there is an enormous element of patience, waiting, planning, and luck that plays a role too. Your location may be epic, but you'll always be at the mercy of the elements and the mercy of your timing.
Take the above image for example; the location is pretty simple, generally not particularly picturesque. It's a small ridge east of my hometown in Colorado. It was winter last year (obviously) and I went for a drive hoping to shoot some images but mostly just wanting to experiment. I only have a 50mm and 85mm, so I chose the 50mm for this outing. It was freezing cold, wind blowing fresh snow combined with some fog (which is rare in Colorado) and low clouds right at the ridge. It also happened to be around the time the sun starts to dip behind the ridge which backlit the whole scene. I got lucky, plain and simple. The weather plus my timing all came together haphazardly and led me to one of my favorite images I've taken.
Sometimes the weather just sucks, or the lighting is too flat, the season could be wrong, or disaster may have struck and altered the scenery (think wildfires or human expansion). At the end of the day, you being in the right place at the right time will always have an element of luck that contributes to your success. This may mean you need to visit the same location multiple times to get the shot you're after. It may mean that if you can't revisit a location and you landed an amazing shot anyway, you got lucky which makes your shot all the more special.
So what do you folks think? Do you agree that luck is always going to play a role in your landscape images? After all, as much as we might want to, we can't control the clouds, the wind, the weather, or anything else on that scale. I don't see anything wrong with admitting when luck played a major role. Hell, if it means that I get a shot I'm excited about, I'll take dumb luck any day. This isn't to say just wing it and hope for the best, by all means, put time into planning your adventures and do everything you can to set yourself up for success. Leave a comment below with your experience. Do you find that some of your favorite shots exist purely because of luck?